Nick Bosa is out without a timetable for his return: How that impacts Ohio State
There are a few things that any team, no matter how talented, wants to hear. This is one of them.
“Your best player just had in-season surgery and his return timetable is unknown.”
Ohio State fans got that pit-in-the-stomach feeling on Thursday when they saw the news that All-American defensive end Nick Bosa will indeed be out indefinitely following surgery to repair a core muscle.
Urban Meyer says Nick Bosa had surgery for a core muscle injury. No timetable for a return
— Bill Landis (@BillLandis25) September 20, 2018
Besides the fact that someone who could wind up being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft will have less time to showcase his talent, this obviously has an on-field impact that Ohio State fans are more concerned about.
It was about as tough of news as Ohio State could’ve asked for following Bosa’s early exit against TCU on Saturday. The fact that it came days after Urban Meyer made his full-time return to the program made an already eventful season that much more eventful.
One would assume that Bosa will be out for the Penn State game in late September and possibly even into November if 6 weeks does end up being the timetable.
There is nobody on Ohio State’s roster who is as dominant as Bosa. Period. We can sit here and break down his potential replacements until we’re blue in the face, but nobody impacts the game on the defensive side like he does both as a pass-rusher and as a run-stopper. It doesn’t take long watching Bosa play to realize that.
And while there were some who questioned his accolades because he wasn’t exactly a stat-sheet suffer in the past, he certainly had been in his first three games. In probably 2 full games of snaps — there was plenty of garbage time against Oregon State and Rutgers — Bosa had team highs in tackles (14), tackles for loss (6), sacks (4), fumble recoveries (2) and he also had a forced fumble and a defensive touchdown.
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That doesn’t even take into account the amount of plays he disrupted by simply beating a tackle (Pro Football Focus had him graded as the nation’s best pass-rusher in 2017).
Sorry, but Ohio State isn’t turning to the bench for that kind of impact.
So what now?
Does Ohio State just kiss its Playoff hopes goodbye? Obviously not. And as cliché as it is, “next man up” will determine how realistic those Playoff chances look when Bosa returns to the lineup.
The good news is that Dre’Mont Jones has been a monster. Through 3 games, he has 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 pass breakups and pick-6. The nation’s top-graded interior defensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus, Jones has been doing more than enough after Sam Hubbard left for the NFL. His TCU performance earned him B1G Defensive Player of the Week honors and understandably so.
This is crazy athletic for anyone, much less a defensive tackle:
— OSU4ia (@osu4ia) September 20, 2018
Still, though. Meyer referenced the need for Jones to continue to raise his game. After all, there will be that much more attention on Jones without Bosa taking up space and forcing double teams.
Against Tulane this weekend, that probably doesn’t really matter. Against Penn State in Happy Valley next weekend, you better believe that matters against a mobile Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback like Trace McSorley.
This is when guys like Chase Young, Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday have to become more than just rotational players. As Meyer said, the talent is definitely there. But all 3 of those players combined have less than half of Bosa’s production in the major defensive categories. Actually, this stat is even more telling:
Nick Bosa's stats through Ohio State's first three games: 113 snaps, 14 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 sacks
Chase Young, Jonathon Cooper, Tyreke Smith, Jashon Cornell and Tyler Friday through three games: 325 snaps, 13 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks
Ohio State's other DEs have big shoes to fill.
— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) September 20, 2018
What seems certain is that Ohio State will give anyone significant reps if they can simply stop the run. Even with Bosa, the Buckeyes rank No. 71 against the run through three games.
It’s one thing to cough up 200 on the ground to TCU. It’s another to do so against Oregon State. The B1G schedule might not exactly be murderer’s row after that Penn State game, but Ohio State will still face plenty of teams in October who can run the ball better than the Beavers.
Surely that’ll be a major point of emphasis for whoever takes the majority of Bosa’s reps. It has to be. If Ohio State doesn’t improve in that area, we won’t be talking about the Buckeyes as a Playoff favorite when Bosa returns.
If there is a comforting thought for OSU in the wake of this Bosa news, it’s that the offense looks as high-powered as ever. The Buckeyes are second to Alabama in points per game (56.3) having hit the 40-point mark in each of their first 3 contests. Maybe the margin for error isn’t as slim as its been in years past because of that.
Either way, the loss of Bosa will be felt. He’s too good of a player for it not to be.
For the sake of not getting to watch an extremely talented player blossom, it’s a bummer. For the sake of Ohio State’s desires to control its own path to a B1G Championship, Thursday’s development certainly didn’t help.
Could Bosa return sooner than expected and be his dominant self en route to another B1G crown? Sure.
But it sure won’t be an easy road to get there.